Electricity in China is 220 Volts, alternating at 50 cycles per second. This is twice the standard voltage than in North America and some Latin American countries which run on 110V 60Hz.
The standard wall plug in most households in China has a grounding pin and two power conducing pins in a V-shape:
The British type socket is also found throughout China and is the prevalent type in Hong Kong.
So when bringing electrical appliances to China, or devices that require recharging, such as your photo and video cameras, rechargeable batteries, iPads, Nintendos, Sony PSPs, and the like, you need to determine what kind of voltage your devices function under, and whether you will be needing a converter.
If your device's electrical plug has a different shape than the one above, you may need an electrical adapter.
Electricity in China: Electrical Converters
Most European countries use a voltage of 220V-230V, so if you are traveling from Europe, your appliances will function fine without a need for a converter.
North American appliances however, run on 110V and so, you will need a converter so that your 110V item does not fry (literally) when you plug it into the 220V source.
You can get a converter easily and inexpensively at any electronics shop like Best Buy or at the airport shops which normally carry them. But before you rush to get a converter also consider the following:
- Most of the hotels in China have both 110V and 220V electrical outlets in the bathrooms for low wattage items, your 110V electric shaver for example can be plugged in without problems. The electrical outlets are clearly marked either 110V or 220V.
- Some of your appliances might be "Dual-Voltage", that is, they will work fine at either 110V or 220V. In fact, the chargers that come with most modern video cameras, battery chargers, hair dryers, shavers, laptop computers, etc. are designed to sense the voltage automatically and adjust to the respective source.
How to tell if you have a dual-voltage appliance? Look in the back of the charger or item where the power input/output is described.
Look for the "Input" specification which should read something like this:Input: 100-240 V AC; 50/60 Hz
That tells you the voltage the device will take. If it says 110V but there is no mention of 220V or 240V, your device is not dual voltage and you will need an electricity converter in China.
Electricity in China: Electric Adapters
Now that you determined whether you have the right voltage to use your devices in China, in order to plug them into the Chinese electrical outlets (sockets) you will need an electric adapter, which is simply a connector that matches the shape of your plug with the Chinese electrical socket.
An adapter does not change the voltage of the device, the converter does that.
Some of the newer Western hotel chains do provide adapters in the rooms for the different styles of plugs in America and Europe, but do not expect that to be the case at smaller hotels and guest houses.
In any case, I would definitely bring a Travel Adapter Set with me just in case, they are inexpensive and that will keep from having everyone in the family fighting for the one outlet in the room to charge their devices!
When buying a travel adapter SET pay attention that it includes the one with the V-shape that will fit the Chinese socket as pictured above. Most of the Universal sets will include it but double check, sometimes the sets are only US to Europe or US to UK adapters.
Some sets also include the converter, some only the adapters, so make sure you buy what you need.
Australians should have no problem with electricity in China since the Australian plug works well with the Chinese socket, it is the same shape only upside-down and Australian voltage is also the same.
If you are traveling to Hong Kong, you will see the British style socket in use:
Adapters for this kind of outlet are also included in the Travel Adapter Sets.
If you have a lot of devices that use USB chargers, choose an adapter or converter set with USB charging ports so you don't have to carry around the extra charging units.
Buy Adapter Sets, USB Chargers, etc
Find More Converters and Adapters for North American Plugs to Chinese Sockets
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Find Converters and Adapters for European Plugs to Chinese Sockets
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